The mission of The W.A. Franke College of Business is to prepare students to be ready for the business world on day one of their careers, and given that about 80 percent of marketing majors and 50 percent of other business majors start their careers in sales, sales experience can make a world of difference.
A 7-year-old program designed to help students get to that level got an infusion of support last month from an alumnus with 30 years of experience who’s now an executive with a major company.
The Professional Selling Program, which began with three classes, gives students knowledge of sales, focuses on career readiness and includes a sales club that sponsors a speaker series and local, statewide and national sales competitions. The program, which has been recognized as one of the top sales programs nationally by the Sales Education Foundation, also includes the Sales Advisory Council, which is comprised of alumni, corporate executives and faculty members. The latest member of the council and newest supporter of the program is 1992 alumnus Dan Peña, who graduated with a degree in business in 1992 and is executive vice president of national joint ventures loanDepot, the nation’s second-largest non-bank retail lender.
Peña is contributing his expertise as a visiting classroom lecturer and on the council, which provides industry feedback and insight about how the curriculum and other learning experiences can prepare students for success in sales and marketing careers.
“There are so many sales skills that can only be honed through practice and experience,” he said. “I know this was true for me, as I found my way into
the business naturally and built a career in mortgage sales after graduating from NAU. The remarkable set of curricular and co-curricular experiences these students receive is a true differentiator and really propels them to the top of the candidate list when they’re competing for their first jobs. I look back on my own college career and wish I’d had something like this, so it’s a real joy for me to be able to engage with these hungry and talented students as they embark on building their careers.”
Jana Carpenter, the coordinator of the sales program, said this kind of training is critical for new graduates who are hitting the job market. The collaboration with the industry helps in both directions; students get the kind of experience they need to succeed early, and companies get motivated, intelligent salespeople that they don’t have to teach how to be effective. This program helps students gain confidence, gives them experience in selling to senior decision-makers and provides an understanding of the dynamics of persuasion and influence.
“It is a great partnership,” she said of the relationship between FCB and their corporate partners. “We get input from companies on the skills they want in students to help us with curriculum. That input assists us in making them business-ready, and the sponsors give our students amazing opportunities. Our students are business-ready professionals and desired by employers.”